Caring for Christine

Caring for Christine

Christine – who used to be a keen sea swimmer – received care on Martlets’ inpatient unit. She talks about the various ways our staff have offered support.

“I’m getting amazing care here at Martlets, wonderful food, and the kindness and compassion from staff is just fantastic. I was being cared for at home but the pain from my cancer had become excruciating. I’m so thankful to be on the inpatient unit while they stabilise my medication. It may be that I stay here now for the time I have left.

Christine sea swimmer

When the night staff come in to help me wash my face and clean my teeth they’ll pull up a chair and sit and chat. It’s a kind of unofficial counselling and I really appreciate it as nighttime can feel particularly lonely.

We’ll chat about everything and there’s one lovely lady who’s trained as a death doula. She knows just what to say and it makes such a difference. It was difficult to overcome the loneliness at home. Even though my two wonderful daughters were doing as much as they possibly could to look after me, they’ve got full-time work and families. It’s hard to describe the kind of loneliness that comes up when you have a terminal illness. Martlets have helped me to overcome that, because it’s just lovely knowing there are always people around who will come and talk about whatever’s on my mind. So, any fear of loneliness goes completely.

I recently had a very bad night and so much fear came up, but two nurses were able to come in individually and sit and talk with me. That presence of someone holding my hand and calming me down was so reassuring. Whether it’s big things or small things, they are always there making life better.

I love sea swimming and was telling the nurses that and how much I miss being in the water. One of them said she would bring in a virtual reality (VR) headset so that I could experience swimming underwater with all sorts of sea creatures.

Apparently, when you put the VR headset on it’s as if you’re in a totally different environment. It’s another example of the lengths the staff go to find out what really matters to us as patients and then doing what they can to support that.

I also had a visit from Martlets’ ambassador Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) and he read me some poetry on Valentine’s Day. That was such a lovely surprise and really made my day!

Christine, Staff and Norman Cook in our IPU

As well as the nurses, I’ve also talked to the chaplain and had some interesting conversations. Suddenly, you realise that ultimately the experience of leaving this world will be one that you go through alone, even if you have loved ones around you. I was brought up as a Christian but I find all religions fascinating. I feel that if you look at the philosophy it’s all the same truth at the centre.

Really though it’s been yoga that has become my support, and I was a yoga teacher for many years. There can be a spiritual aspect to yoga, it depends how far you want to go with the practice. That’s become my one path and it’s been in my life since 1972. Although I can’t manage the postures physically anymore, I still do them in my mind. The power of the mind is amazing, and I still do the breathing exercises. I’ve always described yoga as my best friend. I’ve practised it through various stages of my life; it’s seen me through some difficult times and it’s still helping me now tremendously.

The Martlets team knew that bringing me in was the right thing at just the right time. It has given my family so much reassurance. Martlets are not only caring for me, there are counsellors and a welfare team on hand if my family need them.

Until I was 71, I was fit and healthy. But then I was given a cancer diagnosis and now at 74 I’ve had several fractures in my spine and been in a lot of pain. I had a scan from my neck right down to my tailbone and it showed the cancer was in my liver and my bones. I was told by my oncologist that I had up to six months to live. It was a shock as I had been so healthy, but I feel lucky that I’ve had a wonderful life. I know I’m in good hands here at Martlets.

To begin with I was doing all right at home and my daughters were looking after me and things were ticking along. But then around Christmas I was becoming more bedridden. After one last blast of radiotherapy I went downhill and was in a lot of pain. The community team at Martlets were supporting me at home. However, they felt that coming in would be the best way to stabilise things. When the pain kicks in, I need help immediately.

I’ve got quite a little gang of a family; they all came pouring into the hospice last Thursday as two had just come back from Cape Town where they had been on holiday. My granddaughter came in from Amsterdam, and my other granddaughters arrived too. I’ve made a donation to Martlets and the family are all saying that they’ll be finding ways to fundraise in the months to come which is good to hear.

It may sound strange, but despite the situation I’m not unhappy. I’m very content with all my lovely memories and my family around me. And I know the staff here will do as much as they can to help me live well absolutely to the end.”

Christine died peacefully on our inpatient unit in February 2023. Our thoughts are with her loved ones, and we thank them for kindly giving their permission for us to publish this blog in her memory. The family have set up a tribute page for Christine which has already raised £1,000 for Martlets and also intend to make a further donation.

Please consider supporting other local families affected by terminal illness by making a donation, or fundraising or volunteering for us. Together, we’ll help keep Martlets caring.